Category Archives: Grow your own

Award Winning Black Pudding from The Fruit Pig Company

I love black pudding, so when I heard about a local producer winning a rather special award from the French for his fresh blood black pudding, I couldn’t help but find out more. What is Matt Cockin’s The Fruit Pig Company doing so well to win a coveted award from the French? I asked if I could pay him a visit and learn some secrets behind his success, and he was delighted to accept!

Matt Cockin

Matt Cockin sources his pigs from local farms and small holdings that he knows and trusts. I was lucky enough to visit one of the small holdings which is located just outside Wisbech (on the borders of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire) and had a great time with the pigs and getting out in the fresh air!

Now, these pictures are pretty cute, so please do bear in mind that these lovely pigs live a great life and the reality is that they wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the demand of us meat-loving humans wanting to eat them. It’s also important to understand and appreciate that meat was once a live animal and we should all try to buy the best standard of meat we can afford, or perhaps cut down rather than buying lots of cheap, unethically reared meat.

The farm (or I should probably say small holding) owner loves his pigs, and you can tell that they live happy and fulfilling lives.

Matt really knows his pigs but has chosen to stick to what he does best with the butchery and charcuterie making – all the better for us I say!

Matt warned me that his unit probably wouldn’t live up to my expectations of a traditional wooden shack or cottage out in the country – instead I found a functional, spotlessly clean unit in a business park, which ticks all the boxes for what Matt needs to make his delicious black pudding, sausages and other meaty goods.

Most black pudding producers in the UK use dried blood to make their black puddings. It is rare to find a producer using fresh blood, which takes a lot more effort to do. Marc Frederic, a well respected British Charcutier, is an advocate of using fresh blood in black pudding. In fact, when Matt was experimenting with recipes he asked Marc for his opinion – Marc wouldn’t even taste a dried blood version!

So now it gets a little gruesome… but what did you expect from a post about blood pudding?! Matt has to be super quick to collect the blood from his slaughtered pigs – if he’s too late, the blood starts to coagulate and clot, like our own blood would. As soon as possible he must add the oats, so has a great system for doing this (no secrets given away here!) but he does have to get up ridiculously early to do it! It makes him realise why so many producers take the easy option and use dried blood!

By the time I reached the unit, the oats and blood had already been mixed, but the colour was still shockingly vibrant.

Fresh Blood Mix

So, aside from the obviously good fresh blood, what were Matt’s secrets to the success of his award-winning black pudding? Unfortunately somethings have to be kept exactly that – secrets! Matt mixed his added ingredients before I arrived so I couldn’t tell what was in there – clever man! I did take a good snoop at all the ingredients on his shelves though…

Secret Spices

Secret Ingredients

Oatmeal is a key ingredient in their black puddings – as with all blood puddings there needs to be a binding agent, which is usually some kind of grain like barley or rice but in England oats are usually used.

Oatmeal

Fat is also added to the black pudding, which Matt melts down to give an even consistency to the pudding.

Mincing Fat

The mixture is stuffed into black skins and then placed in a water oven to cook through. I didn’t know, but black pudding is actually cooked when you buy it, so all it needs is a warm through, and for me a little bit of crispness!

Black Puddings

The Fruit Pig Company’s black pudding has a flavour and texture that is definitely worth the extra effort that Matt puts in. It almost has a creaminess to it, which adds to the rich, meaty flavour and crumbly texture.

Black Pudding

Every year in the old French market town Morgagne-au-Perche, over 600 black puddings from across the globe are judged by the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Black Pudding. The festival runs over 3 days with the aim of uncovering the very best black puddings in the world. Matt did England proud by bringing back a silver medal – congratulations!

The Fruit Pig Company don’t only do black pudding… they also have a delicious range of flavoured sausages, bacon, meat joints and other charcuterie items too. I asked whether he was doing anything about the pulled pork trend – of course! Matt opened up an upright smoker and lo and behold shelves full of pork joints smoking ready to be sent out to chefs for pulled pork!

Pulled Pork Shoulders Smoking

I think it’s important to support producers that make this kind of effort with their produce – The Fruit Pig Company work hard to produce a quality product and deserve our attention and custom. Luckily if you aren’t local enough to visit the Creake Abbey or Kings Lynn farmers markets then you can buy online from their online butchery.

If you are keen to find out more about black pudding, and the festival organised by the Knights of the Black Pudding, listen to the brilliant Radio 4 Food Programme on the subject.

If you’d like to see more pictures from my farm visit – take a look at my Flickr page.

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Pigging out at The Pigs

Yesterday, my Dad treated my boyfriend and I to lunch at The Pigs in Edgefield, Norfolk. We all loved it and concluded that it could possibly be the perfect pub.  I love the cook book library out the back, being able to see into the kitchen (and when looking into the kitchen I could see them making their own bread) and mostly because you can bring in your home-grown/ caught/ shot produce and exchange it for beer and food credits! We had the full works – starting with ‘iffits’ (Norfolk tapas), hearty mains, warming desserts all washed down with local beer and ice-cold white wine.

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Pick Your Own, Pumpkins and Poppies

So this year, my ‘grow my own’ dream hasn’t exactly delivered, and so to pick my own I had to turn. My boyfriend and I produced little more than a handful of clove sized garlic bulbs, a few scraggy herbs and a dozen or so of the tiniest potatoes I’ve ever seen. So a few weekends ago we headed off to a local farm shop where we knew we could get that little bit closer to the good life by picking our own.

It was the last weekend of the year for pick your own and families were out in full force to find the perfect pumpkin for Halloween. There were a few things still available in addition to the pumpkins – sweetcorn, beetroot, spinach and to my surprise strawberries!

Some wasted cobs left naked on the ground…

 

A poppy surprised us in the middle of the corn field, which now reminds me of the amazing sight which was looking down from the gallery of Olympia, at the thousands of silent and still chefs, workers and crowds at MasterChef Live at the weekend. It was a truly moving, goose bump inducing sight.

A few strawberries still left ripe for the picking…

We left the pick your own area of the farm (Garson’s Farm in Esher) with 5 corn on the cobs which were rather over priced considering we had to do the picking ourselves! It was fun though, and got us out into the fresh air for a little while. We then heading for the farm shop where I spent as long as I could get away with looking all the wonderful produce! Jamie gets bored very quickly in such places so I have to scan the shelves wide-eyed to try to absorb all the jars, packets, boxes and tubs of goodness.

I really liked these bottles of french fizzy pop from La Mortaucienne, which are one of my Grandparents’ favourites, come in beautiful bottles and are available online from Natoora.

The other thing that caught my eye were these jars… unfortunately I didn’t stop long enough to pick up on the brand and a half-hearted google search for ‘Just So…’ didn’t bring up any results. They look great though!

The trip to the farm shop ended up rather costly (we couldn’t resist buying a picnic of meats, cheeses and olives), so I think we needed to put a little more effort into growing our own in 2012 – watch this space!

 

 

 

 

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All over for another year – BBC Good Food Show Summer 2011 Highlights

Wow, I can’t believe the show is over for another year! Time seems to be going so quickly at the moment. I have a well needed day off today so am taking the opportunity to run through some of my personal highlights of the show. I hope you enjoy them, and if you visited I would love you to add your highlights in the comments section below!

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Easter Treats

Easter is a great opportunity to eat, drink and be merry – I have been back in North Norfolk (West Runton to be precise) staying with my sister and have certainly made the most of it this year. So, while I sip on a cup of tea and nibble on the ear of my chocolate bunny, I will recount some of the highlights…

My sister had been warned by her local council that she needed to clear her allotment and start using it, which is fair enough due to there being such a high demand for allotments these days. She has been focusing on fitting her new kitchen, so the allotment has taken a back seat over the past year. So Good Friday was spent turning her allotment from this:

To this wonderful, tidy allotment ready for planting fruit and vegetables for the year ahead:

Its a lovely place to be, with the sun so warm and view out over the North Sea. Obviously there were a few hot cross buns here and there and scampi and chips as a treat for lunch over in our local pub garden. I love the feeling of being really hungry after exhausting work – the food always seems to taste better too.

On Saturday my boyfriend and brother and law went fly fishing for trout. The lake was nearby to a lovely farm shop (Groveland) so I picked up some lovely meat from their butchery for a BBQ and spent a small fortune on bits and pieces from the farm shop too. The catch of the day was a 2.5 lb rainbow trout, which we put on the BBQ stuffed with lemon and onions.

While waiting for the boys to return my sister and I had some wonderful Norfolk asparagus, bought fresh from the farm shop, which we dry fried, sprinkled with sea salt and dipped into melted butter.

I rewarded the boys with some aptly named ‘Sunshiny Beer’ from the Norfolk Square Brewery, which was refreshing after their long day in the sun. I don’t like beer so much, so didn’t try it, but my boyfriend thought it tasted very malty, sweet with a slight hint of honey.

On Easter Sunday we invited over my Grandparents for a roast which we had planned to eat outside in the sun. Unfortunately the cruel North Sea decided to cast its cold foggy shadow over West Runton so we were forced inside, but it was lovely all the same. We had a huge roast chicken that my sister had bought recently at the Aylsham farmers market, with fresh vegetables, roast potatoes, cranberry sauce and some seriously good gravy.

I was on dessert duty and had been inspired by Raymond Blanc and his kitchen secrets to make meringues, so I made a huge Pavlova, some lime and lemon curd with the leftover yolks, whipped up some cream and then topped it with fresh raspberries. I must say it did impress and really tasted delicious.

The research and preparations…

I adapted a lemon curd recipe from an american website, as it was the first I saw that used the yolks of the eggs only. I had a mixture of lemons and limes so replaced some of the lemon zest and juice with limes. It was easy to make and really tart and creamy.

I used Raymond Blanc’s recipe for the Pavlova, which I think worked really well.

I whipped up some double cream and filled the hollow I had created in the centre of the meringue, crisscrossed the lemon and lime curd across the top (this could look neater if done using a piping bag) and then placed a raspberry onto each of the crosses. I was really pleased with the finished the result, and think it makes an easy (especially if you buy the meringue and curd!) and impressive summery dessert.

This last bit didn’t last too long!

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Jenny Wren’s Happy Hens

It seems that every time I go back to Suffolk to visit my mum (Jane Wren), that she has a new addition to her little chicken family. She started a couple of years ago in order to make the very best cakes she could to win the cookery class in the local flower show*, and now she gets up to 8 eggs a day! She supplies her neighbours for a small fee and customises the egg box with a hand written note to say ‘From Jenny Wrens Happy Hens’.

She has a lovely selection of chickens, and they really are like her little children. For those that are interested I have included her inventory (or should I say brood?!) below, otherwise you can just skip to the pictures!

4 Smooth and 1 Frizzled Polish Bantams (2 were sent all the way from Wales as eggs!)

3 Golden Black Polish Bantams

3 Light Sussex Bantams

3 Barred Wyandots

1 Buff Pekin Bantam

 

 

 

 

I can understand why my mum was so keen to get her own eggs for her cakes, the chickens deliver the most golden, yellow yolks I’ve ever seen! The eggs add a ‘midas touch’ to everything that they are added and you really can taste the difference both on their own and as an ingredient.

A light, fatless sponge…

Cheese scones ready to be baked…

 

Pancakes too, which I made using Doves Farm wheat free flour (which worked surprisingly well) and Crush Foods rapeseed oil…

Unfortunately eggs from ‘Jenny Wrens Happy Hens’ aren’t available to most, but it is definitely worth trying to find someone in your local area that rears their own chickens – or even consider getting your own if you have enough space. I certainly would if I had more than just a little patio!

*Preparation for this baking competition is stressful business, but mum continues to win year after year!

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Worm Free Gardening

Despite being from a family full of keen gardeners, I have never warmed to gardening. I love the idea of living the good life – growing my own produce and getting something (to eat) back from my efforts.

The thing that has always held me back is my overwhelming fear of the common worm. For some its spiders, others heights or closed in spaces, but for me the greatest of all my fears are worms (and slugs, maggots, mealworms or anything remotely worm like).

My move to Hampton Court means I now have some outdoor space and a boyfriend keen to start ‘growing our own’. We took a trip out at the weekend to Garsons Garden Centre and Farm Shop where we bought a lovely old barrel thing and some herbs. Et voila! I now have my very own herb garden and can officially be involved in the gardening chat at family gatherings!

I have been assured that worms wont be able to get into the barrel… but now have added protection by my pretty Laura Ashley gauntlet gloves and extendable trowel and fork so that I could garden from over a metre away if necessary!

Please do get in touch if there is any possiblity that worms could in fact get into the barrel.

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